Counties warn state cuts could mean property tax hikes in Pa.

     Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg(Kevin McCorry/WHYY, file)

    Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg(Kevin McCorry/WHYY, file)

    The House GOP-led budget proposal — which passed on to the Senate last week — has drawn criticism from legislative Democrats, and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf for its austere tax cuts.

    But it’s also seeing pushback from a more bipartisan group: the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association.

    For the last few budget cycles, state funding has stayed largely flat for a number of county-level programs — including probation services, behavioral health services, and the multi-use Human Services Development Fund.

    Wolf’s proposed budget would have largely maintained that flat funding for counties — something County Commissioners Association President Doug Hill said counties “could deal with.”

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    “While that’s not something to be pleased with generally, in the context of a $3 billion structural state deficit, it at least kept us even,” he said.

    The GOP’s proposal, however, would cut about $35 million in funding from those various county programs.Hill said that would put counties in a financial bind.

    “If we are being told by the state government to provide these services, the state government needs to be an equal partner in assuring that the funding is adequate,” he said.

    Hill added that if funding gets cut, he can only think of one way to keep providing services: property tax hikes.

    “We can’t just ignore that responsibility, and if the state money’s not adequate, the only place counties have to turn is the property tax,” he said.

    The budget isn’t due for another three months, so it will likely undergo major changes before final passage.

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